Plasma donor biobank

Tracking plasma donors – Impact on the immune response from the vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19

Context

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Héma-Québec has been playing a supportive role to the Québec and Canadian health care networks by conducting SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence studies in blood donors. The biobank and the studies arising from it will be a continuation of this collaboration, by facilitating studies pertaining to the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of the deployment of the vaccination.


Description

An expedited COVID-19 vaccination program by the government was introduced in March 2021 in the context of the health emergency in Quebec and aims to immunize the majority of the Quebec population as soon as possible. The speed of immunizing the Quebec population prompted Héma-Québec to quickly recruit a cohort of its frequent plasma donors and accumulate relevant biological samples. These donors give plasma that is intended for fractionation, through a process called apheresis. The biobank consists of 3-mL plasma samples collected at each donation from these plasma donors. The ten Héma-Québec donation centres that collect biobank-dedicated samples from plasma donors are located in Saguenay, Québec City (Lebourgneuf and Sainte-Foy), Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Laval, Montreal, Kirkland, Brossard and Gatineau.

Sample collection is continuing for already enrolled participants. At the last count, we had more than 140,000 samples obtained from more than 15,000 individual donors. Data on vaccination and infection events are also collected. All plasma donors who qualified for donating during the recruiting period were included in the biobankif they gave their consent specifically for this project.


Many people give plasma on a regular basis; this provides an opportunity to collect repeat samples and study the response to vaccination or infection over time. The samples collected allow us to gather information before and after vaccination, and in some cases before and after COVID-19 infection, which will contribute to gain a better understanding of the impact of vaccination on the evolution of the pandemic. We anticipate that over the course of the project, which will continue until end of 2022, we may accumulate more than 170,000 plasma samples that will be available for several ongoing and future research projects.


Biobank's objectives

  • To build a cohort of frequent plasma donors who consent to participating in studies in the pre- and post-COVID-19 vaccination context.
  • To systematically collect and store plasma samples obtained from the biobank’s donors.
  • To develop a database that will contain certain information pertaining to the biobank’s donors.
  • To allow internal or external researchers to have access to the biobank’s samples and data for the purpose of conducting studies pertaining to COVID 19.
  • To ensure the diligent management of the biobank, its compliance with confidentiality rules, and the robustness of the process for assessing the scientific quality of research projects.

All of the biobank’s activities, from the recruiting of donors for the cohort to the access process for researchers, are governed by the Management and Governance Framework for the Plasma Donor Biobank.


Timeline

 

* The collection of samples and data could continue depending on research projects and the evolution of the pandemic.


Data collecting

Information about SARS-CoV-2 infection

If a donor agrees to participate in the study, questions on infection are automatically added to the donation qualification medical questionnaire (Infection yes/no, PCR-detected yes/no and PCR date).

Vaccination information

Information about the COVID-19 vaccination is also collected. Questions about vaccination in the medical questionnaire are added (COVID-19 vaccine yes/no, type of vaccine received, number of shots and vaccine date).

Sociodemographic data collected

Socio-demographic information about donors is provided to internal and external researchers who have access to the biobank’s data:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Location (CLSC, RLS, RSS)
  • Ethnicity
  • Weight/height (body mass index)
  • Certain health conditions or information about the donor: high blood pressure/controlled diabetes/mild asthma, blood type, etc.

The data associated with each sample include the collection date, the collection site, the freezing time and date. The consent process provides for the possibility of using targeted questionnaires as part of research projects accepted by the Héma-Québec Scientific Committee and the Research Ethics Committee (approvals required as outlined the Management and Governance Framework for the Plasma Donor Biobank).


Current studies

Héma-Québec are already taking advantage of the samples collected for the biobank; the Quebec Public Health folks have asked Héma-Québec to design and conduct a third seroprevalence study. For more information on our two previous seroprevalence studies, click here.


Access to biobank

For more information or to know how to apply on the biobank, please contact us.


Participants in the research project

If you have additional questions regarding your rights as a participant in this research project or if you want to file a complaint, you can contact the Ethics Committee secretariat at 514-832-5000, extension 5370 or toll free at 1-888-666-4362, ext. 5370.